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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Kristiina Silvan (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Patriotic Pluralism: Russian Pro-Government Youth NGOs as Executors of State Youth Policy

The emergence of government-organised youth associations in Russia attracted wide scholarly attention in the 2000s. Both Idushchie vmeste and Nashi were successful in mobilising thousands of young people in various forms of ‘patriotic’ collective action all around the country. However, since the dissolution of Nashi in 2013, no single pro-governmental youth movement has developed in Russia. Instead, the 2010s have witnessed the development of a variety of small pro-governmental youth associations, such as ‘Patriots of Upper Volga’ , ‘Mordovian Orthodox Youth Union’ or ‘Russian Rural Youth Union’. This paper argues that the shift in organisational structures of pro-governmental youth activism can be explained by changes in the sphere of Russian state youth policy. While in the 2000s decision makers supported the model of a single youth union, the trend in the 2010s has been to promote ‘patriotic pluralism’. The aim of this new policy course is to develop grassroots level youth activism fuelled by statist patriotism. As explicitly articulated in youth policy documents and NGO funding decisions, instilling patriotism and developing a ‘patriotic’ civil society is a top priority in today’s Russia. In other words, the Russian state demonstrates a demand for statist patriotic youth activism, to which people have reacted by providing a supply of NGOs that meet the needs of the policy makers. As a result, these associations become a link between the state and the youth as they convey desirable beliefs from the former to the latter, not vice versa. These small ‘patriotic’ youth organisations that rely almost completely on state funding thus function per se as executors of youth policy.